Match center marks of backing and front leader (fabric strip attached to the front pole of the machine).
Place pins close together, leaving less than 1⁄4" gaps, to avoid areas with uneven tension.
Roll up backing onto front pole, keeping it straight, smooth, and centered. Continue until bulk of backing is rolled, leaving enough slack to pin opposite edge.
Matching center marks in the same manner, pin opposite edge of backing to back leader. (Our backing is made from two contrasting batiks.)
NOTE: The order of loading the backing and quilt top--and which roller/leader you put them on--varies depending on the long-arm machine manufacturer.
Lay quilt top, right side up, on quilting frame. (We loaded our quilt top sideways so we could stitch the vertical sashing strips in one continuous design.)
Roll up quilt top, keeping it centered and smooth. If you're using a packaged batting, prepare it for the next step by smoothing it out over the quilting frame and letting it sit overnight.
Tuck batting between the rollers and shift it to the top of the backing. Unroll quilt top and bring it up to the top of the batting/backing sandwich.
Look at the upper edge of the quilt from the side of the machine, making sure the edge of the quilt top is straight. Also look at the surface of the quilt top to make sure it’s flat. Smooth out small bumps or tucks in the batting with your fingers.
Thread the machine. To save time, Nancy cuts the old thread at the back of the machine, ties on the new thread, and pulls it through to the needle eye.
Before quilting the layers, follow the manufacturer’s manual for where and how often to oil the machine.
See machine-quilting in action! Watch Nancy Sharr use rulers and stitch allover, edge-to-edge designs.